2:30 PM – (1) Texas A&M vs (4) Notre Dame
In terms of “best second round performance” (non-UCLA category), Texas A&M probably took top honors after a 7-2 starching of Arizona to avenge a 2-2 regular season draw with the Wildcats. The Aggies started scoring in the fifteenth minute at didn’t stop scoring until they had netted seven, which didn’t even take them an hour. The Aggies got braces from both Kelley Monogue and Allie Bailey, while Shea Groom sashayed her way to a goal and two assists as the A&M offense ran riot. I suspect the defensive performance may be viewed a little more critically, though the SEC side was already up 6-0 by the time Arizona had netted their first consolation goal. The defense is going to need to tighten up if A&M is to keep advancing. But if the offense plays like they did on Friday, there’s certainly going to be a large margin of error against just about anyone.
Notre Dame’s performance on the same pitch just a few hours earlier was hardly as convincing. The Irish looked to be lacking a distinct sharpness all over the pitch and surely would have crashed to defeat against a less limited opponent than a game Texas Longhorns side that still pushed the ACC side all the way to the end of the match. Team talisman Morgan Andrews played just forty-four minutes and didn’t put a shot on goal. The Irish also ended up getting much more production from its attackers off the bench. In particular, Karin Muya was a revelation in a super sub role, setting up the first goal before an ice cold finish with less than five minutes to play to win it. It’ll be interesting to see if Muya or Anna Gilbertson, who also scored off the bench, are moved into the starting lineup on Sunday. Regardless, Notre Dame’s going to need a much better performance in all phases to stand a chance to upset Texas A&M.
AMCs – Shea Groom & Kelley Monogue (A&M) vs DMCs Cari Roccaro and Glory Williams (ND)
It’s one of the weekend’s tastiest matchups, as the main battle on Sunday between these two clubs figures to be in the heart of the pitch. The determined pair of Shea Groom and Kelley Monogue have crushed opponents beneath their heels this season, including in Friday’s overpowering display against Arizona. But they are going to have their hands full in getting past the duo of Roccaro and Williams. Roccaro is one of the nation’s top players who sometimes falls between the cracks due to her unflashy role. But Roccaro is very efficient at shielding the backline and has a very solid partner in Glory Williams. Organization and discipline will be key for Notre Dame’s defensive midfield partnership. If they get dragged apart, the club’s front four may end up doing more defending than they’d like, limiting their offensive potential.
LB – Sabrina Flores (ND) vs RF – Bianca Brinson (A&M)
Flores has been one of the most impressive rookie full-backs in the nation and more than did her part in the club’s win against Texas in getting up and down the line while contributing in both phases of play. But the freshman is going to have her hands full against Bianca Brinson, who has made a habit out of torturing left-backs all season long. Brinson is very effective field-stretcher for the Aggies and will work to combine well with Karlie Mueller down the right flank. There are many worries for Notre Dame defensively on the day, but keeping Brinson in check has to be near the top of the list.
The Notre Dame Frontline vs The Texas A&M Backline
There’s no telling who’s going to start for the Irish up after Friday’s patchy display against Texas. The goals for the Irish came from the bench with Anna Gilbertson and Karin Muya both netting, with the latter in particular putting in a fantastic shift from off the bench. With starter Karin Simonian playing just twenty-two minutes, you wonder if Notre Dame isn’t going to shuffle the deck a bit against the Aggies. A&M will be wanting to tighten things up a bit after conceding a couple of garbage time goals against Arizona. The SEC side has usually been solid defensively but does have the odd lapse that could prove costly in what may be a very tight encounter.